Open Book Essay Contest

Open Book Essay Contest

  • 12:00 AM
  • Essay Contest Duration - Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023 - Monday, January 15, 2024
November 16, 2023


Seeking to celebrate the vibrant community of thoughtful individuals who attend our events, the Pasadena Literary Alliance is delighted to announce an essay contest in conjunction with our November 2023 Open Book event featuring Ingrid Rojas Contreras, author of The Man Who Could Move Clouds and Fruit of the Drunken Tree and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor  Tobar, author of Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meaning and Myths of “Latino” in conversation. 

We would love to hear your beautiful voices come alive on the page. Follow your inspiration and share with our community your reflections on the lives that have come before you that you still carry in your bones. We welcome stories of love, loss, bravery, defeat, redemption, beginnings, and endings, among others. We want to hear your stories and celebrate how they have brought you to where you are today.  


What calls to you from your own ancestral history to become legible on the page? Weave together an essay to share from the pieces and fragments of stories about people or events from your own familial past that you carry within.


While Praising The Man Who Could Move Clouds, the New York Times wrote, “Rojas Contreras has forced into the public record a collective identity of clairvoyants and spiritualists — beginning with Nono — that she has pieced together from the disintegrating fragments of her own familial past. In the process, she has written a spellbinding and genre-defying ancestral history.”

Celebrating Héctor Tobar’s newest work, the New York Times wrote, “the repetition of “you,” “we” and “our” in Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meaning and Myths of “Latino,” slowly breaks down the detachment and distance with which we often read as adults . . . . [a]and so, as we read, we begin to recognize that we still carry the same questions as these young people, the same desire to be seen on the page, to know we are a legible, integral part of the teeming world around us.”

The contest is open for entries from November 16, 2023, through January 15, 2024. 


The contest is open for entries November 16, 2023 through January 15, 2024. 

Essays may be up to 1,000 words.

One entry per person is allowed.

Essays must not have been previously published. If an essay is published elsewhere after submission, please inform the Pasadena Literary Alliance.


Submit the essay as a Word Doc attachment as well as in the body of an email to by 11:59 pm on January 15, 2024.

Include your name, email address, and phone number in the submission email. If your essay is selected for publication on the Pasadena Literary Alliance website, you may request to use a nom de plume.


Open Book committee members will review all entries and select finalists. 


Winning essays will be published on the Pasadena Literary Alliance website for one year.

Winners will be recognized at an upcoming Open Book event.

First Prize Winner will receive two tickets to the 2024 Pasadena Festival of Women Authors.